Equatorial Guinea: Mercenary avoided death penalty

A former apartheid soldier-turned-mercenary avoided the death penalty at a sentencing here Friday, but still received a 34-year prison term for trying to overthrow the government of this oil-rich West African nation.

South African Nick du Toit clenched a small &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/region/2003/03/03/43948.html ' target=_blank>Bible and smiled at his wife as a judge sentenced him for his part in the botched attempt to topple &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/mailbox/22/101/399/14599_guinea.html ' target=_blank>Equatorial Guinea's autocratic ruler.

Severo Moto, an exiled opposition leader, was sentenced in absentia to 63 years in prison, and 10 mercenaries who were in the courtroom received prison sentences ranging from 1 to 53 years. Three South Africans were cleared of all charges, reports Newsday.

The alleged coup plot was exposed in March by South African intelligence services, and scores of accused mercenaries were arrested in Malabo and in Zimbabwe.

Equatorial Guinean prosecutors also accused Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/world/20/91/367/13925_Thatcher.html ' target=_blank>Margaret Thatcher, of financing the plot.

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